Wow, I seem to have stirred up a hornet's nest yesterday, with my relatively off-the-cuff potshots at the mobile search sacred cow. Obviously hit a sore point.... in fact, coming back to my general belief that "consensus is always flawed", I'm wondering now whether there's scope for a full research report on the topic. I'll add it to the list of things to delve into more deeply.
In particular, I really don't think location is that much of an important "context" for most mobile searches. The main exception I can think of is for directions to a particular address, which could be better done with (non-assisted) GPS and an in-memory map. It is notable that most in-car navigation systems don't need to be "online" .
To be honest, I suspect the lure of search & context is less about empowering end-users, and more about generating mobile advertising revenues. The more I look at the consumer side of the mobile industry, the more I think that advertising is the only possible saviour of certain things, especially mobile TV.
Haha, I've just seen a web page suggesting that mobile search will be a $13bn market by 2011.
Hmm. I've got an idea.... I reckon if I can get $1bn of VC funding, I could establish a call centre in India with 10,000 multilingual employees equipped with maps, copies of worldwide Yellow Pages, access to Zagats, Time-Out & Lonely Planet guides... and access to the real Google via PCs with keyboards & 19' monitors. Then get a slightly premium-rate number (maybe 20c per minute?) and local VoIP gateways, and set up a true "speak to a real person" mobile search service.
I mean, for mobile search, the single most important piece of context information is this: You're holding a telephone.